The Waterloo Doctor Who guided walk
Recently we were asked to road-test
Opposite Waterloo's south-eastern entrance on the Waterloo Road is the Wellington Pub. Now, SF book fans and authors have regularly met in London since the late 1930s. Following the hiatus caused by World War II, meetings resumed and the gathering began to be called a meeting of the London (SF) Circle. These were weekly and the meets moved to the White Horse pub. Regulars at the meeting included one Vince (Vin¢) Clarke and one (no relation) Arthur C. Clarke with meetings taking place the first Thursday of the month. In 1957 Clarke wrote a collection of shorts, The Tales From The White Hart, whose stories centred on a pub of sciencey types where japes took place and tall, SFnal tales told.
Though the London Circle was 'officially' disbanded in 1959, fans and SF authors still met.
Over the years, after The White Hart gatherings, meetings took place in a sequence of pubs: The Globe (in Hatton Garden, 1953-1974 and the pub was referenced as The Sphere in The Tales From The White Hart); The One Tun (in Saffron Hill, Farringdon, 1974-1987); The Wellington (Waterloo Road, 1974-1992 when it closed for extensive redecoration); briefly Hamilton Hall (Liverpool Street Station); back to the Wellington (1993-1997), the Florence Nightingale (on Westminster Bridge Road on Waterloo station's western side, 1999-2002) and then over the next couple of decades a variety of other pubs. The London SF Circle (as some still informally know it) continues to meet the first Thursday of the month.
(For myself, the London SF Circle meetings will always be associated with The One Tun whose first Thursday meets I regularly attended between 1978 and 1987. Regulars at the time included authors Ted Tubb, Rob Holdstock (who lived in London Colney, down the road from my college) and David Langford among others.)
Today, the gathering takes place The Bishop's Finger (9-10 West Smithfield, 2016-present). Those mainly going to these meetings are a score or two of SF London area fans who regularly attend the British Eastercon, though numbers have dipped a bit since the 2020 CoVID pandemic. Visiting fans in the Eastercon and Worldcon communities have been known to drop in.
Meanwhile, back to the Doctor Who guided walk and we were about to have an odd SFnal coincidence. As the tour moved into the backstreet behind the Wellington, we spied another pub that itself was called The White Hart… Spooky or what?
Just a few yards up Cornwall Road from The White Hart (that is totally unconnected with the London SF Circle) is the birthplace of the Daleks. Shock, horror, drama, probe, this is not the planet Skaro.
Think of the Daleks and for many the name Terry Nation comes to mind. However, while Terry conceived of a race of mutants encased in machinery, he did not design the Daleks: that was done by Raymond Cusick. That took place in a BBC store cum workshop in Cornwall Road.
As our guide explained, Raymond Cusick felt cheated by the BBC for not getting royalties on the commercial success (through toys and so forth) of the Daleks: Raymond was a salaried BBC staff member, whereas Terry Nation was not and so he had intellectual rights, hence royalties.
The area also formed the scene of a battle with the Daleks. All the immediate locals knew of the shoot, but when a Dalek was blown up, with the sound reverberating a few streets away, worried members of the public contacted the police.
Walking around the Southbank, there is another site of a Doctor Who shoot as well as a statue of Nelson Mandela. The Doctor Who connection here is the term Mandela Effect which is a type of false memory. The term was coined by Paranormal researcher Fiona Broome, who reported having vivid and detailed memories of news coverage of South African anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s,despite Mandela actually dying in 2013, decades after his release. It has been cited as evidence for their being alternate realities and time lines. This concept was used in Doctor Who and as such arguably helped popularised the term.
The statue is opposite the British Film Institute and so cue our guide recounting Doctor Who's cinematic forays with Peter Cushing playing the Doctor in two Dalek films: Doctor Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150. Apparently a third film was being considered but as the second cost more but did not have as big a box office take as the first one, plans for a third were dropped.
Along the way, the tour goes around the base of the IMAX theatre and related connections with the show. It also passes close to the birth place of Colin Baker the sixth Doctor. Cue discussion of Colin Baker's relationship with the BBC and his other SFnal roles including appearing in an episode of Blake's 7 and The Adventures of Don Quick.
Moving around the corner of St Thomas' hospital, we encounter the statue of Mary Seacole. Mary Seacole, the British nurse and businesswoman of Creole descent. Her Doctor Who connection is that she was portrayed by Sara Powell in a 2021 episode 'War of the Sontarans', alongside Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.
Turn around from the statue of Mary Seacole and there is a view across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The clock tower, the Elizabeth Tower, that houses Big Ben has appeared in a number of Doctor Who episodes including being the parking site for a space ship and being clipped by a spaceship crash landing into the Thames. Westminster Bridge famously appeared in an early Doctor Who episode when the Daleks invaded the Earth and London.
Finally, turning slightly left and there is the London Eye which was portrayed as a giant radio antenna in an episode of Doctor Who. And it was here that the guided tour ended. This means that those that wish to do a bit more tourism can go for a spin on the Eye.
A number of the tour stops, and a great deal of detail, have been left out of this article: too much information would have been a decided spoiler. Suffice to say it was very informative and only the show's most die-hard of fans will come away learning nothing new. It is also a way to see some of the back streets that often tourists miss.
For further information see lambethfantastical.blogspot.com.